Spearheading change for community wellbeing
The City of Lethbridge, like many communities across the country, has been impacted by complex social issues including a drug crisis and increased homelessness. This is something that is concerning to our entire community and has affected the health and safety of our residents.
These challenges span many demographics, involve a multitude of social issues, and are managed across several government jurisdictions. Solutions aren’t simple but we are proud of the tremendous efforts over the last 12 months as we partnered with the Government of Alberta and community stakeholders to improve our city.
With this growing concern impacting the quality of life in Lethbridge, the City of Lethbridge has expanded involvement in this area and taken action with more than 15 new initiatives over the last year that are helping move the community towards solutions.
This timeline outlines the aggressive steps taken and actions achieved since this time last year.
Fall 2022 – Point-in-time count indicated at least 454 individuals experiencing homelessness in Lethbridge. This number has more than doubled since 2018.
- 254 individuals were surveyed or tallied (observed to be homeless) through the unsheltered count (i.e. teams going out across the city)
- 92 individuals were counted in shelter or stabilization beds
- 108 individuals were counted in transitional housing, treatment centres, Police holding cells, Lethbridge Correctional Centre, or AHS hospital
January 24, 2023 – Council directs City administration to develop a strategic, long-term response to sheltering residents in need and those who are difficult to house.
April 18, 2023 - Lethbridge City Council approves funding for up to $500,000 per year for 2023-2026 and $250,000 one-time funding to support an Encampment Strategy. This includes:
- Two full-time Encampment Response positions and one full-time Housing Specialist
- Funding for Lethbridge Police Service overtime resources
- Additional resource funding including, but not limited to: vehicle and fuel, biohazard cleanup resources, training, personal protective equipment etc.
- Contracted outreach services (increased with additional one-time funds)
May 23, 2023 – A revised Fee Assistance Program is launched with the aim to support residents facing financial barriers to both recreation and culture activities as well as bus passes. In August, the program would expand again, incorporating the existing Refugee Bus Pass program and Access-A-Ride options.
May 16, 2023 – City Council approves a coordinated Encampment Strategy in partnership with Lethbridge Police Service.
May 30, 2023 - Council directs administration to apply for the Housing Accelerator Fund with a commitment of $1.5million in backstop funding to manage potential risk of not meeting the requirements of the Action Plan. If successful, the Federal Government through Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation would provide over $6M in funding to increase the supply of housing in Lethbridge.
June 15, 2023 – The first of monthly public encampment update outlines the successful completion of several Encampment Strategy milestones including hiring and training staff, procuring supplies and fleet services and getting contracted outreach services in place.
June 19, 2023 – A new online reporting form added to the City of Lethbridge website for public to report any public safety issues including encampments.
June 27, 2023 – Council approves a new Shelter Development Strategy which outlined a strategic, long-term response to sheltering residents in need, specifically clarifying the City’s involvement in shelter development with a focus on land-banking and land use.
July 11, 2023 – Council approves the use of Federal Reaching Home funding to complete a needs assessment and updates to the Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy and Municipal Housing Strategy.
Council approves rezoning of the Lethbridge Shelter property to allow for expanded services.
July 12, 2023 – The July Encampment update highlights the addition of the new Street Medicine Program. This outreach focused pilot project, funded through the City of Lethbridge and operated by the Blood Tribe Department of Health, focused on providing heath care services to the homeless population and proved to be extremely successful.
July 25, 2023 – Council receives $665,618 in federal funding to target gang violence from Public Safety Canada through the Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF).
August 17, 2023 – the August Encampment update shows a decreased number of entrenched encampments helping to reduce health and safety risks to the vulnerable population and the broader community.
August 23, 2023 – The City launched the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) Renewal Project with phase 1 focused on the health and well-being of our community. This began community engagement on social uses such as emergency shelters, transitional housing, supportive housing, social services and partnering with other levels of Government.
September 19, 2023 – The September Encampment update encourages residents to secure abandoned buildings to prevent trespassing and potential fires as the weather turns colder. This is a serious safety risk to the individuals in the buildings and the entire community.
Council accepts $1M in Provincial funding for a Low Income Transit Pass program to support City’s expansion of the Fee Assistance Program to provide monthly bus passes to low-income residents at subsidized rates.
September 20, 2023 – Council unanimously passes the rezone of 416 Stafford Drive North to allow for the development of a social housing facility with 30 supportive housing units, as well as medical clinic and pharmacy.
October 4, 2023 – City Council conditionally approved more than $1.85 million in funding for two affordable and social housing projects. These approvals are conditional to the securement of at least the same amount in Provincial or Federal funding to match the proposed Municipal contribution. These projects could provide ups to 80 new housing units in Lethbridge.
October 17, 2023 - City Council directs Administration to engage with the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) to collaborate on the development of a cross-functional task force on lawlessness.
The October encampment update is the final public update of the year as the team transitions to a winter response. The City is working with the Government of Alberta and Blood Tribe Department of health to support changes that can increase capacity at the Lethbridge Shelter for the winter season.
October 31, 2023 - City Council approves up to $230,000 for a potential drop-in centre over the winter months. Administration will now investigate location and operator options.
December 5, 2023 – City of Lethbridge staff work with the Government of Alberta and Blood Tribe Department of Health to support the installation of additional temporary shelter space at the Lethbridge Shelter to meet the need over winter for our general homeless population.
More broadly, work will continue to support other local shelters to increase capacity for vulnerable women, children, and youth.
Council also approved several recommendations provided by the Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy (CWSS) Advisory Committee with funding from Federal Reaching Home (RH) and Provincial Family and Social Support Services (FCSS) to support social services in the community including:
- Additional $40,000 to the existing budget to Blood Tribe/Kainai for the Blackfoot Resource Hub program.
- $120,000 annually to Blood Tribe Department of Health to deliver a comprehensive record and tracking of individuals experiencing homelessness.
- $70,000 annually to Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization (LSCO) for a Senior Support Navigator.
- $50,000 annually for the implementation of a Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS).
- $90,000 annually to Blood Tribe Department of Health for a Shelter Population Support Navigator.
- $170,000 to Canadian Mental Health Association for two new vehicles to support the Diversion Outreach Team (DOT) program.
- $91,506 to several existing service organizations who deliver prevention focused support service programming.